Photography is an art form that combines both technical skill and creativity, and most successful photographers have developed a perception and understanding of just when to capture a single moment on camera. Earning potential in this field averages $38,950 annually, with jobs growing faster than average at around 9% through 2031.
Most students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in photography will need to complete at least 120 credit hours. As of 2021, bachelor’s degree programs in public schools cost approximately $25,910 per year, while private schools cost around $45,920 per year.
How to Choose an Online Photography Program
Choose your area of study
Photographers have numerous fields of study to choose from. Career opportunities exist in fine arts, photojournalism, forensics, special events, studio work, portraiture, landscape photography, and just about any subject matter photographers feel inspired by. They can work full-time for themselves or at established photography companies, or they may simply do freelance work by assignment.
Both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in photography can be earned in science, art, or the fine arts. When choosing your area of study, consider your preferences and future goals. Do you want to work outdoors or in a studio? Do you prefer to travel, or do you enjoy being in familiar places? These questions are important to explore before you choose your photography degree program.
Research schools and programs
The best place to begin doing research is on your school’s website. Schools often publish information about their online delivery format, acceptance rates, accreditation, and other key details.
However, don’t underestimate the value of reaching out to an admissions representative. These people are trained to answer any questions you might have and can guide you through the application process. A good admissions counselor has intimate knowledge of the school and can help you plan an educational path that matches your professional goals.
Prepare for tests and applications
Most bachelor’s degree programs will request high school transcripts or a GED for admission. Some competitive schools may ask for letters of recommendation or standardized test scores, but these requirements are different for every school.
A master’s degree program often requires a bachelor’s degree and a minimum grade point average (GPA). Some schools might also ask for a letter of intent and recommendations from teachers or colleagues. Students who have photography portfolios may have an edge over their competition, as admissions teams can see the students’ interests and aptitudes reflected in their work – not to mention their conscientiousness and organization skills.
Select your program
Delivery format, cost, and personal preferences are all important considerations when selecting your program, but don’t forget to check your school’s accreditation status. Proper accreditation ensures schools have met the highest ethical and educational standards in their programs. The National Association of Schools of Art and Design is one such accrediting agency, and its website offers students an abundance of information to help them narrow down their program search.
In addition, you may want to consider the following questions:
- Will there be darkroom training? Where can online students access this darkroom time?
- Does the program emphasize commercial photography or fine art?
- Is current digital technology available to online students?
Determine how you’ll pay for your degree
While the per-credit cost of your degree program can be found online or in your school’s course catalog, it’s always best to contact a financial aid advisor. An advisor can assist you with payment options and offer information about grants, scholarships, and other tuition assistance programs that may be available.
Many students begin planning for the cost of their education by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This government program helps students qualify for affordable loans and tuition assistance, such as work-study programs.
Best 50 Accredited Online Photography Programs
How We Rank Schools
This list features some of the best online photography degree programs at top colleges across the country. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions. The programs on our list have accreditation through the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).
We evaluated each school’s program on tuition costs, admission standards, retention and graduation rates, faculty, and reputation as well as the resources provided for online students. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.
Next, we compared this comprehensive list of online photography degree programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications, including U.S. News & World Report, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.
What Can You Expect from an Online Photography Program?
For an undergraduate degree program, you’ll need to complete approximately 120 credit hours, on average. For full-time students, this should take about four years to finish. Students entering a master’s degree program will be expected to complete a minimum of 30 credit hours, with some schools requiring up to 60. This should take full-time students approximately two to three years to complete.
Photography students will spend much of their time learning how to use cameras and film to create art that communicates information, evokes emotion, or expresses ideas. Students will also learn the tools and techniques of digital photography, including lighting, composition, and color. Similarly, advanced computer and technical skills are necessary to know in today’s digital photography careers.
Because photography encompasses a broad range of specializations, students can often select a concentration, such as:
- News media
- Wedding photography
- Nature photography
- Graphic design
Potential courses you’ll take in an online photography degree program
- Digital Photography. Students learn advanced concepts in the use of computer software to manipulate and control photographic output.
- Portraiture. Students learn advanced concepts in portraiture, with a focus on environment, location, and unique presentation. This course is often offered with an associated laboratory course.
- Video for Photographers. Students learn the foundations of professional video production. Video editing, audio recording, delivery, color grading, and video capture are covered.
- Portfolio Development. Students create their portfolios while learning concepts such as professional self-presentation, photographic organization, and resume creation. Students also attend seminars in their areas of photographic interest.
- Photographic Studio Management. Students explore photography business management with an in-depth study of photographic equipment analysis, market analysis, and business concepts such as promotion, networking, and job acquisition.
- Illustrative Photography. Students focus on commercial photography, learning the technical aspects of lighting equipment, illustrative techniques, production photography, advertising, and reproduction principles.
Online Photography Degree Frequently Asked Questions
How do I apply to an online photography degree program?
Admissions counselors can provide individualized advice on what you’ll need to meet your program’s requirements. Typical graduate admissions will require the following documents:
- Official transcripts. These inform the admissions team of your grade point average, the amount of coursework you’ve completed, and the academic rigor of your courses.
- Letters of recommendation. These should come from teachers or colleagues who can attest to your scholarship abilities.
- Standardized test scores. Your school may not require standardized test scores, such as the SAT for undergraduates or the GRE for graduate students, but some scholarships and fellowships may ask for them.
- Resume or curriculum vitae. Be sure to include any professional memberships, volunteer experience, educational research, or publications.
Other materials you may need in the application process include an entrance essay or personal statement, along with your application and any fees.
How much does an online photography degree cost?
Most colleges charge a lower per-credit fee for in-state students. Nonresidents can sometimes pay more than double the in-state rate. Check with your financial aid office for any fee waivers or tuition assistance that may be available to you to help with your educational costs.
How long does it take to earn an online photography degree?
Most online bachelor’s degrees in photography require 120 credits to graduate. This will take full-time students about four years to complete. For master’s degree programs, students are required to complete between 30-60 credits or roughly 10-30 classes. Full-time students can finish their master’s degrees in two to three years, but many students opt for part-time attendance while they maintain professional work.
If you are interested in speeding up your graduation timeframe, some colleges offer dual-degree or accelerated programs that condense classes into shorter terms or semesters. Check with your admissions counselor to see what options might be available to you.